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Military

In: English and Literature

Submitted By fcotten
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Why We Serve In the Military

Sometimes it takes something terrible to realize what is important in life. When I was in the Army, I would constantly raise questions in my mind. “Why did I have to sacrifice being away from our love ones” or “Did we really need to protect anyone else other than our own”.

It was 6:00 AM on a Monday morning. Everything was normal; I woke up, laced up my boots and went to work as a Squad leader over construction equipment operators. As I was driving to work my cell phone started to ring. I answered and on the other line was my 1st Sergeant; “Cotten I’m going to need you to come see me in my office for possible re-assignment”. At that point I thought he had a last minute tasking for me to go deploy to one of the countries in a faraway land. As I arrived at our unit’s building, I couldn’t help but think of the possibility of being gone for next twelve to eighteen months in a faraway country under a 100 plus degree sun. With palms sweaty and heart pounding at an incredible rate, I knocked and entered my 1st Sergeant’s office; “You wanted to see me Top?” I responded. “Yes, you are temporarily going to be assigned down the road as liaison for dignified transfers” he uttered. At that point I was relieved that I didn’t have to go anywhere and suffer under extreme conditions.

The following day I reported to the protocol building and began my new job. As I walked in the building I couldn’t help but feel fortunate that I will be working with the entire high ranking officials on base. Immediately I began my training as “Dignified Transfer Protocol”. I was still quite unsure what my job entailed so I asked my trainer; “The job title seemed very unique. What exactly am I going to be doing?” He then answered with a serious look on his face “We will be handling all the General Officer’s itinerary whenever a fallen soldier is transported back to the states so the family and General Officer can pay their final respect”. At that point I’ve realized that this is going to be an emotional process for all involved parties.

Days went by and I started getting proficient on my new job. Since there were no real incident, learning the job was a breeze. I go to work, sit in the office and type up make believe itineraries. Everything was going smooth until my trainer and I got a phone call from our Command Post; “Sir, there will be a dignified transfer mission taking place at 4:30 PM” he exclaimed. Both of us immediately jumped up our seats and started the General Officers itinerary. We called the lodging office to make reservations for the family of the deceased, set-up the Generals Officer’s lounge and made sure proper arrangements were made at the chapel. As the clock moved closer to 4:30 PM, everything was in order and everyone was in place. Everything was a breeze up to that point, until the family of the deceased stepped out of the bus. The spouse, the children and the parents were all in tears and still in a state of disbelief. They still can’t believe that their 20 year old son/spouse has been killed in the line of duty while in the Middle East. As I glanced at them I can’t help but feel their sorrow. The General Officer offered his condolences and tried to comfort everyone. But what do you really say to someone who just lost a loved one? It was close to 4:45 PM when they all headed to the chapel for the ceremonial mass. All the parties headed there while my partner and I stayed behind to wait for the plane transporting the remains. After waiting for about 30 minutes, the loudspeaker in the terminal began to beep; “Attention in the terminal. Flight from Ramstein Air Base, Germany is now landing”. At that point, utter silenced was felt throughout the terminal. As the plane taxied the runway, the family of the deceased and the General Officer were then escorted back from the chapel to the terminal. As the bus pulled closer to the plane, the Honor Guard and the pallbearers began to march towards it. As the back of the plane started to lower down, you could only see a flag draped casket resting on the middle of the aircraft. All the military personnel immediately stood at attention and rendered a ceremonial salute. The pallbearers and the Chaplin marched up the ramp of the plane, bowed their heads and prayed then carried the casket slowly towards the family. The General Officer then presented the folded flag to the family. Immediately tears and emotions started to breakdown. I could hear the kids asking their mom; “Why is dad lying down in that box?” The mother kneeled to one knee and responded, “Your dad is just going to heaven and watch over us more, like he’s always done”. As I stood there at attention, beads of tears started to run down my cheeks.

At that point is when all my questions were answered. We serve in the Armed Forces so our families and others can enjoy the freedom that we all deserve. It’s necessary to be away from our loved ones so we could help those who cannot help themselves. And above all, we serve because it’s in our nature to uphold justice and peace throughout the world.

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